Welcome to the official first part of what I am now realizing will be a very long series of strategy articles for the Tala arc of Thunderstone Advance. Jumping right in, I’m going to start with a card-by-card analysis of half of the heroes in Towers of Ruin.
Aird: Getting in on the Aird stack is buying on potential. The Level 1 is subpar, the Level 2 is a little wonky, but the Level 3 is the whole reason you buy in.
Aird Cutpurse (level 1) is…okay. With 3 strength and 1 Physical Attack, no light generation and 0 gold production, she’s physically identical to a Regular. Awesome. She also has the ability Village: Each opponent discards the top card of their deck. Choose one of the discarded cards and gain gold equal to the gold production of that card. Her Village ability has a strong chance of whiffing in the early game where you will use this ability the most, as there are more Regulars than any other card. On occasion, she will net you 1-2 gold. Keep in mind that when you activate this ability you are speeding up the recycling of your opponents’ decks, which will refresh their options quicker. This is something that is often overlooked when activating this ability which often produces no profit.
Aird Honeytongue (level 2) improves in a number of ways. She now produces 2 gold at all times, although at this point you’re probably spending a lot less time in the Village. Her Attack has increased to +2, which is on par with a lot of level 1 Heroes. Whoopie. Her ability has also changed timing from Village to Dungeon, where she adds the chosen discard’s gold production to her own gold production and her Physical Attack. This is nice as it makes the Dungeon timing relevant (otherwise the gold production would go wasted save for a few unique circumstances), and in the midgame, you should have better odds of flipping SOME kind of Attack bonus. I wouldn’t go banking on her to bag you a big monster, but if you’ve already guaranteed defeat of one Monster in the hall, she may be able to stretch you into better options.
Aird Seductress (level 3) is the whole reason you buy into the stack. The good news is, if you beat the other players to Level 3, you’ve got a rockstar who makes it all worthwhile. The bad news is, if you don’t, you’ve got a bunch of Aird in your deck. She’s now up to a whopping +3 Attack, and she’s picked up a shiny 2 VP, but where she truly shines is her ability. Dungeon: All opponents reveal their hands, you choose one revealed Hero to join your party, discarding it to its owner’s discard pile at the end of the turn. A few really great things about this: your odds of pulling a hero are decent. Most people have been working to have decks full of heroes. Better still, at this point in the game, you have a decent chance of nabbing a Level 2 or even Level 3 Hero, so you’re getting much higher quality on your “press your luck” combat style. The icing on the cake is that in the endgame, forcing the discard of key heroes can cost your opponents super valuable tempo (making up for the tempo boosts you might have given them earlier). This wound is further salted by their hero helping you bring down big monsters. It’s super frustrating to see the Seductress show up and your own Level 3 get flushed down the toilet, seriously compromising the the strength of your hand. Repeatedly. Aird Seductress is so good that it would be overpowered if Cutpurse or Honeytongue were any better.
Bhoidwood is the first introduction to a class new in Thunderstone Advance, Rangers. Rangers have a couple of signature traits that distinguish them from other fighter-sorts. Most noticeably, they often carry a negative gold value. This often acts a deterrent to new players, why would you want to be punished? However, in exchange for that gold penalty, you are rewarded in a number of ways.
Bhoidwood Hunter (level 1) Physical Attack +2 and a Strength of 5 for 6 gold. The difference between 4 and 5 Strength is pretty substantial. 5 Strength means she can carry a Longsword unassisted. She’s not quite strong enough for the Dwarven Bear Hammer (which has the same Attack value and lower gold production) , but that Strength and that attack power for that cost is a solid buy. Yes, she does incur a -1 Gold penalty, but that’s all the more reason to take her into the Dungeon where that penalty doesn’t matter.
Bhoidwood Stalker (level 2) is another prime example of cost efficiency. She’s only 9 gold, but if you’re playing in what I would say is the correct fashion, there will be few opportunities to pay her printed gold cost. Her strength stays the same at a respectable 5, her gold penalty doubles to -2, though at this point you should probably be spending less time in the Village, and her Physical Attack increases to +4. She also picks up the ability Dungeon: Switch the positions of two adjacent Monsters in the hall. This is a powerful ability that can be used as a pseudo-light, bringing a Monster to a shallower rank, effectively decreasing the difficulty by 2, the same as a point of Light. It may not seem like much, but this really enhances your Dungeon options a great deal.
Bhoidwood Slayer (level 3) is of course, where it’s at. Her gold penalty climbs to -3, which could honestly be -10 for all the time you should be spending in the Village, especially if she’s in hand. Her Strength increases to 6, in case you wanted some of that Dwarven Bear Hammer action, and her Physical Attack climbs to a beefy +6. She even picks up a snazzy 1 VP. Her ability rocks face. Dungeon: Rearrange the Hall. This allows you to simultaneously put the hardest/highest VP Monster in the easiest position to attack, and dictate what occupies ranks 1 and 2 for the next player. With her ability to drag something to the front while putting out 6 levels of hurt, she’s effectively +10 while you have no Light. The existence of these abilities lowers the necessity for Light. It probably won’t come into play very often, but the Bhoidwood’s hall manipulation effects can also be used for certain effects that rely on certain rank positions, like Falcon Arbalest.
Caliginite in my estimation is one of the better heroes of the set. He gives you gold, is pretty inexpensive himself has moderate strength and by virtue of his nice ability, offsets light penalties, or to the savvy player, overcomes them.
Caliginite Lurker (level 1) is the weakest of the bunch. He has a base Physical Attack +1 and if there is Darkness, he gets an additional Physical Attack +2. It’s an important distinction to remember that he states that his attack bonus triggers if there is Darkness, which is not the same as saying if there is no light. True, if there is no light, then, these can offset the penalties, but if you attack into rank 2 or 3 with some light but not enough to eliminate all darkness penalties, it can be turned into a straight bonus.
Caliginite Prowler (level 2) is more of the same, a bit beefier. He has a base Physical Attack +2 and gains 3 more in the dark. Finessing the hall is key to getting the most mileage out of Caliginite heroes.
Caliginite Silencer (level 3) is a hoss. He has a base of Physical Attack +3, gains a point of Strength, taking him to 5, and gains Physical Attack +6 in Darkness. This means that at his worst, he’s eliminating all Darkness penalties in Rank 3 and opening the door for his friends to help him smash face. It only gets better from there, as again, just the presence of Darkness triggers him, so ff you’re attacking into Rank 1 with no Light, this guy effectively weighs in at an amazing +7 Attack. Curiously, while the Lurker and the Prowler gain their bonuses as a trait, the Silencer activates his as a Dungeon ability. In most cases, this won’t matter at all, but on occasion there will be circumstances where this is a help and others where it will hinder. Add 1 VP and you’ve got a Monster killing machine.
Criochan: No frills, no spills, no thrills, just kills. The Criochan set are just beatsticks. Nothing more, nothing less. Some people shy away from him because his initially high gold cost and the notion that he doesn’t have an ability, unless you count “strong enough to equip almost every weapon in the game unassisted.”
Criochan Sergeant (level 1) is admittedly a bit lackluster. No ability, high Strength that may or may not matter depending on the other cards in the spread. Physical Attack +2, but there are less expensive choices for that same value. Similar to Aird, you’re buying on potential.
Criochan Knight (level 2) swings for the fences with a beefy Physical Attack +5, which is definitely on the upper tier of any heroes of this level. It’s also somewhat uncommon to see such a significant jump in between levels. This helps to compensate for the lack of other abilities.
Criochan Captain (level 3) brings a world of pain to the tune of 2 VP, Physical Attack +8, and enough strength to wield every weapon printed for Thunderstone unassisted. Hell, he can still equip a lot of weapons after getting a Strength debuff from a Monster. Curiously enough, provided there’s a decent weapon available, Criochan is one of the best heroes in the set, and he gets talked about the least.
Deepstrider is the second Ranger in Towers of Ruin. One of the Ranger schticks is that their abilities tend to focus on Dungeon manipulation; you see how this worked with Bhoidwood above.
Deepstrider Sentry (level 1) is a solid purchase at 6 Gold. Yes, he gives you a -1 Gold Penalty, but 5 Strength and Physical Attack +2 at a reasonably low cost is nothing to sneeze at. Otherwise vanilla, but that’s true of many level 1 Heroes.
Deepstrider Scout (level 2) remains static on Gold Penalty and Strength, raises to 8 Gold cost and gains a point of Physical Attack. He also picks up an incredibly useful and often underrated ability. Dungeon: Reveal the top card of the Dungeon Deck. Give +1 Physical Attack to Heroes in your hand against Monsters of that type. Place the revealed card on top or bottom of the Dungeon Deck. New players will look at this ability and see a cutesy occasional Attack bonus, but the bonus is really just gravy. More often than not, if you are headed into the Dungeon, you’re either going in knowing ahead of time what Monster you’re going to kill or what Monster you are intentionally losing to. On occasion you will roll the dice depending on how much card draw you have to see if you can go in with a bad hand and come out with a good one, but this is the exception. So, yeah, the bonus can sometimes expand your options, but that won’t matter most times. What REALLY shines is the sentence following the bonus description. It’s awesome for a few different reasons. A) It gives you a bit of intel on what could potentially be coming, and pending how strong your knowledge of the Monster base is, that information can be crucial in a number of decision making factors. B) If it’s a crappy Monster and you’re behind, you can put it on top for someone else to deal with. Most importantly, C) if you are ahead, it accelerates the rise of the Thunderstone Bearer by a turn. Tempo control is an exceptionally powerful ability and not one to be overlooked.
Deepstrider Warden (Level 3), predictably, rocks face like all Level 3s do. His penalty increases to -2 Gold, which at that point in the game should almost never matter. He picks up a largely superfluous point of Strength, 2 VP, and his Physical Attack raises to +4. He keeps the Dungeon ability from the Level 2 and reveals the top TWO cards with the same effects. This increases the odds of getting an Attack bonus, which again, is nice, but speeding up the endgame by 2 turns when you’re ahead is super strong. The Elf from the first Thunderstone employed a similar strategy. He’s considered one of the strongest Heroes in the game.
Closing the first half of the Heroes in Towers of Ruin is the Drua, the first Cleric we’ve seen in this set. We’d be hard pressed to find a better closer to this section, because Drua is where it’s at.
Drua Sacrist (level 1) is no slouch. A respectable 4 Strength, and Physical Attack +2 at 6 Gold. His ability is why you buy into the stack though. Dungeon: Destroy 1 card in your hand. Historically speaking, Clerics in Thunderstone have been primarily concerned with healing by way of destroying Diseases. The Drua set understands that useless cards are every bit as much a disease as actual Diseases are. Regulars are a plague that must be stopped! In most deckbuilding games I have played, the ability to choose and destroy your own cards is almost invariably the most powerful ability that you can have. Don’t believe me? Play a game of original Thunderstone where your opponent buys into Pawnbroker while you do not. Or play a heads up game of the original Ascension where your opponent gets an early jump on Void cards. The only drawback to the Sacrist’s ability is that it’s tied to the Dungeon, and that’s not even that big a deal. If it were not, the Drua Sacrist might be the most brokenest broke that ever done broked a game.
Drua Cursesworn (level 2) picks up a point of Physical Attack, extends her stellar ability to include the Village and gets the memo that proper Clerics are supposed to destroy Diseases and picks up a new ability Village/Dungeon: Destroy a Disease to draw 1 card.
Drua Purifier (level 3) is the ultimate deckthinner. She picks up 2 VP, one more Physical Attack and a point of Strength. Her abilities both gain the Repeat ability, and her Disease destruction now draws 2 cards. Whoa. Given, if you’ve gotten to the Purifier, odds are, you’ve already been doing some strong thinning, but she’ll make short work of any still left to be done, leaving your deck a lean stack of VPs and beats. The ONE downside of the Drua set is you will eventually get to the point where the destroy ability doesn’t matter/ doesn’t get used and if you buy in hard to speed it up, they tend to be less good later on.
NEXT TIME: I will go into an in-depth look at the remaining Heroes in Towers of Ruin. Stay tuned.